25 January, 2009

Why Have There Been So Few EVs?

If this is electric racing, then let me in for some of that...  And let me ask you - if these cars can beat the arse off top fuellers and other technology that's been developed for the past century, then how come car manufacturers couldn't make a decent EV fifty years ago?

Part of the answer of course is that they did, but stopped.  And there has to be a reason behind that failure to develop better tech.  Not any conspiracy, but a nice cosy relationship between the big auto and big oil, the fact that refining is easier than retooling, and a desire to make as many dollars as possible.

Why are the big auto companies still not serious about making good EVs?  That, in a nutshell, is the question.  But when the fastest, highest-accelerating car in the world is powered by batteries and an electric motor, and the most economical and clean in terms of pollution produced per mile are electric, it sometimes seems there's a conspiracy to pollute as much of the Earth as possible and see how many people die off, doesn't it?

Not helping are the pathetic lame-arsed piles of crap the auto companies are trying to lead off with, starting with Toyota's much-vaunted Prius which is really not that much of an advance over most any small economical petrol-engined car.

Why do I say that?  Because to be really serious, Toyota should have led off not with a stupid petrol-engined car that uses electric power like some kind of glorified clock spring reservoir, but a diesel car with plug-in electric capability right from the start.  As we've just seen, despite their protestations, the damn technology IS TOO there, and has been for decades.

And a huge part of the reason is (get braced for it) - US, dear people.  If you dug your heels in and asked at the dealer for a car that's able to run on electric rechargeable power and relatively clean biodiesel at need, then by now that vehicle would exist.  But by buying "one more while I'm waiting for the new clean vehicles" we're all contributing to the feet-dragging.  A bit like "aw, just one more cigarette," really...  And meanwhile, we're shortening the lifespans and reducing the living standards of our children and grandchildren, and working on leaving a many generations legacy of the not-so-good kind behind us...

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akabyam said...

A big issue remains cost. The battery pack for a plug in hybrid electric vehicle can add 10-15K (U.S.) to the cost of the car. The current biggest name in EVs, Tesla, went with luxury models because they felt that would be the only niche that would pay the current EV premium. Hopefully this will come down as demand goes up (economies of scale), but there are also concerns with the lithium supply.

teddlesruss dat who! said...

Hiya, long time no chat! Good to hear from you, been following pics on Flickr.

Lithium isn't THE only game in town. And that '72 Datsun races on lead-acid or lithium batteries interchangeably. We've pretty much perfected the lead-acid battery, and by now there have been so many lead-acids scrapped that if they were all recycled they would power an EV for every current car owner on earth, with enough batteries left over to make serious inroads into Third World populations as well...

The Toyota Prius (despite being a POS in its initial format) isn't THAT much more expensive for being electric, and would have been cheaper still had they gone with lead-acid batteries.

Main reason for using lithium, being energy density, seems to be a crock of shit because the cars don't have that much better a range than EVs with lead-acids. So where's the advantage to me of paying almost a tenfold price for Li technology? None. Just that car manufacturers have made another technology that they can patent and charge a premium for....

And really, we should be thinking of ways to recycle, not create new technology to reverse the effects our preceding technology has had...

teddlesruss dat who! said...

Oh (sorry to add such a barrage of response) there's also some confusion about what constitutes the "biggest" name in EVs. Tesla makes one of the most *expensive* EVs and has thrown more *resources* at each car they make, over the whole development cycle, and will sell a bunch of EVs that when the footprint sheet is finally calculated will have made the least change on the eco crisis, if not actually going the wrong way and costing us more resources per car than an equivalent Ferrari.

But companies like REVA and ZAP and Pure Energy Systems and others that make small cheap EVs are, as far as I'm concerned, much bigger names in EVs than Tesla, will sell more units than Tesla, and make more of a difference in the eco-crisis than Tesla ever will. These are the cars that will replace fossil-fuelled cars in their millions over the next few years, whereas Tesla have priced themselves (based in part on that Li technology) so that they will only ever replace an insignificant handful of muscle cars driven by wankers whose only concern is to signal dick size, and nothing whatsoever to do with the primary problem of reducing carbon footprint.

In the situation we find ourselves in, you need to redefine "success" and realise that a company that makes no profit, uses very few new resources, and produces a positive overall effect on reducing greenhouse gas and carbon footprints is much more successful than a company that makes a shitload of money, chews up megatons of valuable resources, and produces something that's been designed to *only just* slip into the green category.

Money has been a sign of success for millennia, but as we're finding out, money is useless for growing crops in, it's useless for filtering clean water, it doesn't sequester nearly enough carbon, and it doesn't replenish fish stocks nor does it restock extinct and dwindling species....

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